Oscar Melara . statement/bio . cv
A project for me begins with listening to someone else’s stories. For our labor project I worked from my perspective as a bus operator: I witness people coming and going to work and I hear and see the pride and frustration, the energy and fatigue, the solidarity and fear, the art and device with which they respond to their working day. There is a noticeable lack of support in our culture for their work endeavors. I am one of them. I want and need positive reinforcement for my contribution to society and the nation. Creating a project that dignifies our working life helps me appreciate the reason and meaning in my own work life. For Crossing the Street, I listened to our neighbors whose stories are both inspiring and frightening: one neighbor was a tiny baby during the 1906 Earthquake, her family sought refuge in boxcars down by the slaughterhouses in the Bayview…another neighbor’s family escaped Armenia at the turn of the twentieth century. Other neighbors have recently immigrated and together with their families, work seven day weeks to survive. For me, it’s all begins with the story.
Oscar Melara, artist and SamTrans bus driver, is a founding member of La Raza Silkscreen Center. The Center was founded in 1969 to design and print silkscreen posters on national and international political issues, and on local community concerns and events. Its mission was to serve the predominantly Latino Mission District of San Francisco. From 1969 to 1982 Melara held the position of co-director, designing and printing posters, and training community members in the process of silkscreen printing.
Melara’s work has been featured in international traveling exhibitions with sites including the Smithsonian Institution; Self-Help Graphics (Los Angeles); galleries in Havana, Mexico City, Paris, and Rome; and local museums and galleries. His work is in the collection of the UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Library and the CEMA Archive at UC Santa Barbara.
In 1994, Melara began the cartoon series “Side Swipes” which describes the ups and downs of his and fellow SamTrans bus operators’ work lives. In addition to collaborating with Kate Connell on community based projects, he draws and paints illustrations for unions, Labor Councils and non-profit organizations.